- People can only validate recall signitures in state capitals
- Opposition’s Capriles says referendum could occur in October
The 1.35 million Venezuelans whose signatures were verified after they signed a petition calling for a recall referendum on President Nicolas Maduro now face a challenge if they want to make their voice heard -- possibly hours of travel and a missed day of work.
The national electoral council, or CNE, on Friday published a list of 24 centers - one per state - where those who signed the petition must personally appear between June 20 and 24 to validate their signature if they want it to count.
Those who live in eastern Caracas, which belongs to Miranda state, will have to travel an hour away to the state capital of Los Teques, while residents of other states face even longer travel times. A voter living in rural Guasdualito near the border with Colombia will have to travel around 5 hours to the state capital of Apure, instead of being able to validate their signatures at a closer center in a bordering state.
“The CNE is putting all the obstacles in place that they can,” opposition governor Henrique Capriles said at a press conference on Friday after the CNE published the list, adding that his own signature had been invalidated. “There’s only one voting center per state. But that doesn’t matter. They’re not going to stop us.”
Capriles criticized the CNE’s decision to make the database of those who signed available online for anyone to search, saying the publication was a human rights violation and similar to the so-called “Tascon List” that was published by the government in 2004 and allegedly used to discriminate against millions of Venezuelans who had petitioned for a recall vote on former President Hugo Chavez.
After the current validation phase, the opposition must collect signatures from 20 percent of the electorate - or about 4 million voters - in a second petition phase before a recall can be called.
Even with all the difficulties, Capriles said he expects the referendum to be held in October.
“We’re starting the organization, the calls and the mobilization of all the signatories,” he said.